Count me among those who, only a few months ago, suspected that at least one, and probably more, of the MLAs who have announced they are running in next spring’s election would make a move to the BC Conservatives. Now it seems in doubt that party leader John Cummins will be around for long.
Cummins brought the same pedigree to the provincial Conservatives that Prime Minister Stephen Harper carries as the leader of his party. He was first elected as a Reform MP, then moved on with the Canadian Alliance and then the Conservatives. For 18 years he sat in the House of Commons, mostly without distinction, at least to my memory.
But he has his former leader’s stick-to-it-iveness, standing up for conservative values and brooking no dissent. Cummins’ leadership was thought to be in question going into last months convention, but he survived, albeit not without some effort on his part. Being a leader is one thing, though. Having followers is entirely different, something the Lower Mainland politico is learning the hard way.
Sitting MLA John van Dongen’s flirtation with the BC Conservatives came to an end after the convention, with the former Liberal being quoted as saying, “I cannot carry on with a leader who probably really doesn’t care whether I stay or go, and so I’ve got to do what I believe is right for my constituents and what I believe is right for British Columbians.”
Cummins might have been able to dismiss van Dongen as a perpetually disgruntled politico, and he might not have been far off, but the defection to the Liberals of recently unsuccessful by-election candidate John Martin, along with the loss of a party executive member, does not bode well for the short-term future of Cummins or his party.
The laughable thing about this, if there is anything funnier than Cummins ordering party dissidents to resign by yesterday (Wednesday) at noon, is that the most recent Angus Reid poll put his party only six percentage points behind the governing Liberals (19 to 25 per cent, with the NDP the clear leader with 46 per cent).
With a more charismatic leader, the BC Conservatives might be gunning to form the official opposition next spring, with voters appearing having no end of difficulty warming up to Christie Clark as premier. Instead, they look for all the world like an organization on the verge of imploding.
It must be frustrating for right- and centre right-leaning voters who must suspect that Adrian Dix, under pressure, might begin to look less like premier material and more than the old legislative pitbull who was such an effective opponent in the legislature. Instead, it is Dix, not Clark or Cummins, who has the cool, calm and collected look of a premier in waiting these days.
The Liberals aren’t likely to find a way to deep-six Clark with less than eight months to the election, and now it appears that a very stubborn, and not very charismatic, John Cummins is not going to go quietly into that good night, either.